The PML (N) and the MQM may not be on the same page on many issues, but they do share commonness of being equally tempting targets of terrorism. Only two days after the assassination of PML-N’s most effective counter-terrorism operator, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada, a senior leader of MQM and member of parliament, Rashid Godil was shot and wounded by unidentified terrorists.
Khanzada was attacked in Shadi Khan village in north-west of Punjab and Godil fell to the terrorists’ bullets a thousand miles away in the cosmopolitan city of Karachi, but the message that both acts of terrorism conveyed is the same – that war on nation-wide terrorism is far from over.
The terrorists have made known that they can strike at will any target anywhere in the country. Not that the ongoing anti-terrorism operations in tribal areas and urban sprawls have failed; these operations have largely succeeded in that these operations have significantly degraded the terrorists’ capabilities and lowered incidence of terrorism.
But the fact remains that in common with all dying insurgencies the spike in terror in Pakistan is symptomatic of the last hurrah of the dying monster. How long this spike would last one can only make a guess, but certain it is that the curse of terrorism is now over the hump.
What is essential now is that gains made by the armed forces and other law-enforcing agencies in operations against terrorists are not trivialised in political pastime of point scoring and that the nation’s morale is kept high.
As to what prompted the terrorists to launch murderous attacks on Shuja Khanzada and Rashid Godil, not much can be said with any degree of certainty. But it is generally believed that Khanzada was targeted for his perceived role in taking care of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s top leadership.
Given that no one has so far claimed responsibility of the attack on Godil fingers are being pointed in different directions. The most common perception about this attack is that it was enacted to subvert the JUI (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s mission to woo MQM members back to the elected houses.
As to who didn’t want them to go back to the assemblies and thus ignite a huge firestorm in the country’s megacity and the nation’s financial power house, the eyes do turn to possible sources beyond the border in the east. That India is involved in fomenting trouble in Balochistan and Sindh is now almost an established fact, and it is very likely that in his upcoming meeting with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi, Sartaj Aziz would raise this issue.
And the MQM is quite wary of the Indian designs, as it saw to it that the Godil incident is not allowed to disrupt Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s fence-mending mission. It kept its cool and allowed the parleys at Nine-Zero to continue even after hearing of the attack on its Member of National Assembly.
Although MQM has certain reservations about the Rangers’ operation in Karachi, it is not opposed to it. It would like the operation to be impartial, and that is a genuine demand and must be looked into and addressed in time.
While the Sindh chief minister has tasked the IGP to investigate the attack on MNA Rashid Godil the Rangers will undertake a separate investigation. The latest spurt in violence against high-profile targets does suggest that under attack is not a certain individual or a particular group but the entire people of Pakistan.
It carries the unmistakable signs of an attack on our national independence. Fighting it back is not the sole responsibility of armed forces and the law-enforcing agencies. This attack has to be countered by all of us whatever be our station or status.
To one’s great disappointment the political elite doesn’t seem to be effectively responding to this challenge; the political parties are busy contesting for turf betraying their usual nonchalance about matters of national interest. The security forces can do only as much as they are doing.
The civilian establishment has got to keep pace with them, by sharing the burden of war on terrorism which is being fought not only in high mountains and arid fields but also in city centres and busy markets. And this has got to be done today; tomorrow may be too late.